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PM for dramatic reform in legal education system

Saturday, May 01, 2010 03:11:25 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: India's legal education system needs "dramatic reform" to improve the economic environment and ensure citizens get speedy and affordable access to justice, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Saturday.

"If we are to have a society... where the common man and common woman gets speedy and affordable access to justice, if we are to have in our country the turbulence in effect of the rule of law, if we are to have an economic environment where contracts are easily enforceable, then we must ensure that our law teachers, practicing advocates, corporate legal luminaries, legal advisors, judicial officers and legal facilitators are indeed men and women of very high intellectual caliber," he said while inaugurating the National Consultation for Second Generation Reforms in Legal Education here.

"And this is possible only if there is dramatic reform and improvement in the scope and quality of our legal education system."

Noting that India had a "small number of dynamic and outstanding law schools", Manmohan Singh, however, lamented that "they remain islands of excellence amidst a sea of institutionalized mediocrity".

"We are not even marginally nearer to profound scholarship and enlightened research in law."

Recalling the words of then president S. Radhakrishnan that "our colleges of law do not hold a place of high esteem either at home or abroad, nor has law become an area of profound scholarship and enlightened research", Manmohan Singh said: "It’s no doubt we have traveled a long distance since that time. But we must admit and have to ask honestly ourselves whether we have significantly altered the landscape of our legal education system.

"As we and we must introspect honestly, we must sadly accept that Radhakrishnan’s powerful yet poignant words may not be amenable to any radical restatement even today," Manmohan Singh said.

He said action "on many fronts" was required to reform and improve India's legal education system to meet the needs of the growing economy and "a knowledge society that we wish to become".

"There is the issue of making our legal curricula multidisciplinary, creative and flexible. It is only relatively recently that areas like ethics in the judicial profession, clinical legal education, alternative dispute resolution, rights of refugees, rights of prisoners and women and child rights, are being given their legitimate due in the legal curriculum.

"There is an urgent need to integrate these and other areas into a national, uniform course module with fewer exceptions and fewer divergences," the prime minister said.

Pointing to the "serious problem" of too few law teachers of quality, he said: "The sad reality is that when we look for experts to head new law schools and the new faculties, we have precious few to choose from."

Thus, there was the "obvious need" to provide "more uniform but calibrated and better salaries, accompanied by considerably improved terms of service for our teachers", he added.




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